Engage with RWJF at TEDMED 2016

Last year at TEDMED, we kicked-off a conversation with our partner, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), around building a Culture of Health – a movement to improve the health and well-being of everyone in img_2000America. Our discussion last year focused on Making Health a Shared Value, one action area of the RWJF Culture of Health Framework, and this year we’re excited to explore another action area – Creating Healthier, More Equitable Communities. This conversation will be inspired by your perspective and input about what makes your communities – the places where you live, work, learn, and play – healthy, and the role we can all play in making them healthier, and more equitable.

From now throughout TEDMED 2016 and beyond, we look forward to creatively exploring RWJF’s 2016 TEDMED What If? question: “What if we valued our community’s health as much as our own?”

We’ll start this conversation with a pre-event #healthycommunities social media campaign – so join us on Twitter @TEDMED and @RWJF to share your thoughts about the importance of #healthycommunities and pictures of healthy places in your own community. We’re starting today, so look for these prompts and share your responses – we’ll incorporate them into an installation in The Hive onsite in Palm Springs!

How could grocery stores better support a Culture of Health? #healthycommunities

How would you reimagine playgrounds to build a Culture of Health? #healthycommunities

How could parking lots be used to create #healthycommunities?

How can transportation policy better support #healthycommunities?

Also, stay tuned for a ten-part Blog Series, curated by RWJF, showcasing the real and tangible ways that communities around the country are implementing programs focused on health and equity. Featuring each of the seven RWJF 2016 Culture of Health Prize winning communities, and several guest posts from TEDMED community members, this series is sure to inspire us all to improve the health and equity of our own communities.

img_2011Continuing what we hope is a robust and dynamic conversation and engagement on-line leading up to TEDMED, a Creating Healthier, More Equitable Communities Lunch will take place in Palm Springs on Thursday, December 1st. Over lunch, the entire TEDMED Delegation will gather as a community to explore programs, activities and policies that play a vital role in creating healthier, more equitable communities and help to build a Culture of Health around the country.

We can’t wait to hear from you and learn about the big and small ways that you are improving the health and equity of your community!

Making Connections Through Data

Lori Melichar photoLori Melichar is a director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—the largest philanthropy in the United States dedicated solely to health and health carewhere she focuses on discovering, exploring and learning from cutting edge ideas with the potential to help create a Culture of Health. She can be found on Twitter @lorimelichar.

Data about us—where we are, what we’re buying, what we’re reading—is being collected everyday, everywhere. Our cell phones, TVs, wearables, watches and even our Facebook feeds collect data about our daily lives. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is convinced this data also contains important insights into how we live, learn, work and play—and we think harnessing these insights could lead to major improvements in the health of all Americans.

Efforts to make sense of all this personal data and unlock the knowledge within are underway.

RWJF grantee Health Data Exploration Network has been bringing researchers and makers of health apps and devices together to explore the connections between community environments, individual behaviors and health. One such study enables RunKeeper participants to share their data with researchers who want to understand how the built environment relates to types and amounts of exercise over time.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania—another RWJF grantee—are exploring whether what people post online could give health care providers clues about their patient’s health. 3,000 people have agreed to give these researchers access to their electronic health records along with their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter data.

Using Apple’s ResearchKit platform, grantee Sage Bionetworks has been able to capture data on abilities affected by Parkinson’s Disease. Thousands of people completed tasks using their iPhones—from completing a speed tapping exercise on their phone’s touchscreen to measure dexterity, to using their phone’s microphone to record themselves saying “Aaaaah” to measure vocal characteristics—to generate that data. What’s more, over 10,000 of these individuals have agreed to share their data with researchers worldwide to help accelerate our understanding of Parkinson’s. Encouraged by this incredible response, we recently launched the Mood Challenge, seeking proposals from researchers who want to use ResearchKit to further the understanding of mood and how it relates to daily life. And soon, Android users will also be able to participate in mobile health studies thanks to ResearchStack.

The question of privacy has been central to all of these data sharing efforts—and it’s a big one. To get people to share their data, they need to feel comfortable doing so. What we’ve learned is that we can gain that comfort and trust by designing studies in ways that allow people to choose how to share their data and with whom. We have been excited to see that so many people are willing to donate their data for the public good. And we are hopeful that this number will grow. To us, that demonstrates a real shared value around health.   

Now, with all this personal health data at our fingertips, we have a responsibility to make that data actionable—to share back meaningful information with citizens, providers, and policy makers so they can make choices that support the health of their families, their communities, and themselves. While progress has been made, there are still hurdles to overcome and still so much work to do to maximize the impact of this shared data.

For data to be actionable, it needs to be relevant and representative of healthy people and those who are ill, and needs to represent all facets of the American population, not just those who regularly visit their provider or purchased a smart watch. It also needs to be inclusive of data about the social determinants of health. We are concerned that research and applications built using data that is only representative of a certain subset of the population will produce solutions that only help those communities.

Actionable data doesn’t always need to be quantitative. We also need to understand how emotions and qualitative information can be incorporated into data-driven efforts to improve health and well-being. We note with interest the work of MyCounterpane, who is working with individuals and caregivers living with Multiple Sclerosis to collect emotions as a way to understand the impact of the disease beyond the physical effects. Grantee Atlas of Caregiving is using wearable cameras and sensors to understand how caregivers spend their time, how stress plays into caregiving, and which activities are most stressful. Importantly, they also measure moments of joy and happiness.

How can you help? If you have a cutting-edge idea for how to improve learning from health data, consider joining the Health Data Exploration network or submitting a proposal to the Foundation. Finally, find me on Twitter and keep the conversation going. I’d love to hear from you.

Overheard at TEDMED: Let’s Dance

Optimized-MichaelPainterThis guest blog post was written by Michael Painter, senior program officer and senior member of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Quality/Equality team.

Most have seen Derek Sivers’ 2010 TED talk, “How to start a movement.” In it a horde of dancers danced. That horde didn’t come out of nowhere of course. It started with a single nutty guy’s idea of a dance. Soon another joined, then more and more. Those two eventually became that dancing horde. Change—even big change—is like that dance. It starts small. An idea moves out of a mind into a conversation. Sometimes a small conversation, even over lunch, turns into a bigger one—a much bigger one.

At TEDMED 2015, TEDMED asked its community to dance about health. They asked each of us: what is your role in building a Culture of Health? Sure, we can agree on an ultimate far-off health goal for the country: everyone would have the hope, the means, and lots of opportunities to lead the healthiest lives possible. There are many (many) ways to get to that future. Some of those ideas can be remarkably different—most of them aren’t easy—but together they will help us create our Culture of Health dance.

TEDMED drove that conversation—that dance—with open-ended questions to spark powerful discussions about the role of health in our lives and communities. More than 800 TEDMED Delegates participated on-site, and over 150 contributed their perspectives online in response to thought-provoking questions like:

  • What is masquerading as health?
  • How can business positively impact society’s health?
  • Name one small shift that would make the biggest impact on health?
  • What is the secret to making health a shared value?

Blog post 4A dance floor is only as rich as its many wild dancers. The TEDMED team captured over 1,000 responses that reflected a range of diverse thoughts and insights from health care professionals, government officials, scientific researchers, entrepreneurs, journalists, bloggers, and more.

Blogpost3These TEDMED dancers pointed to barriers and opportunities that will help us all make health a shared value. For example, many questioned whether we have placed too much trust in technology and the latest health apps and gadgets, instead of focusing on building real-life social connections and trusting human relationships. Conversations also highlighted the importance of addressing social determinants (such as housing, discrimination and economic status), and debated whether the government should try to provide incentives for healthy behavior.

TEDMED saw some emerging themes in the Culture of Health dance, summarized in the attached piece. Take a look. See what you think. Help us keep the conversation going in your communities – both online (using the #CultureofHealth and #TEDMED hashtags) and off. We can absolutely build our healthy future—but only if we dance together. Is your toe tapping yet?

Building Healthy Cities

This guest blog post was written by Gil Penalosa, Founder and Chair of the Board of 8 80 Cities and World Urban Parks, as well as former Commissioner for Parks, Sport and Recreation for the City of Bogota, Colombia.

CicLAvia Wilshire 06-2013
CicLAvia, Wilshire Boulevard (2013)

How would your life be different if you lived within a culture of health?

Consider the city. Over 85% of us in the U.S. live in cities. Think about how you go to places, where your children go to school, where your friends live, how you cross the street. This built environment – one that can feel so comforting and routine – is actually damaging to your health.

If you looked down on the average U.S. city from the air, you would find that 15 – 25% of the land is paved with streets. Of the land that is public – as in, not privately owned –  streets occupy between 70 – 90% of space that we all share. In this environment, the automobile has become our community connector. Children used to walk and bike to school, now they are driven. When our children make new friends at those schools, we drive them to their play dates. Parks are few and far between so we drive the kids to soccer practice. As cities spread, we drive for an hour or more to report to work. With all these cars on the road, we advocate for wider streets with more lanes and higher speed limits. In many communities, sidewalks do not even exist.

This method of navigating our built environment is killing us. Studies show that the chances of being killed increase by 75% when hit by a car going 35 mph versus one going 20 mph. Around the world, a person walking is killed by a person driving a car every 2 minutes. Twenty years ago, no state in the US had a population with an obesity rate over 20%. Today, there is not a single state whose obesity rate is less than 20%. Concern over obesity is not aesthetic: it causes heart attacks, respiratory problems, cancer, depression and anxiety.

And the challenges are increasing. Currently in the US there are 42 million people over 65 years old; in just 35 years, this number will double to 85 million. Of all the people who have ever lived to 65, half are alive today. We are living longer – much longer – yet our cities are becoming less friendly to older adults. As wider streets lead to longer crossing times, older people are being killed in crosswalks at 4 times the rate of their proportion of the population. The main issues facing the elderly are isolation and mobility. How are we going to address those if we continue to build communities that quite literally threaten their lives?

How do we change the future? To live a culture of health, citizens can no longer be spectators. We must act. We must each commit to participate.

Call on your governments – elected officials and your city staff in departments of planning, transportation, public health, education, parks and recreation – to commit to working with each other and with other sectors like businesses, media, activists and universities to guide the development of our cities with people in mind, creating healthy communities where all people will live happier.

Reclaim your streets. Walking and bicycle riding are the only individual modes of mobility for all people under the age of 16 and for many adults. Safe and enjoyable walking and cycling should be a right for all people. Support budgets that include money for sidewalks. Advocate for Open Streets, the closing of streets to cars on Sundays so that people can use this public space to walk, bike, be with each other. Make it easy for people be out and about in their communities, to visit other neighborhoods, to meet other people meet as equals.

Support investment in parks, large and small, that thread through your city, in all neighborhoods so that every child has a play area within ¼ mile at any given time. If land is not readily available, public properties can be converted for recreational use. School playgrounds can be used by the school during the weekdays but open to the community in the evenings and weekends.

We must improve the use of all land that is public. It belongs to all people. We must stop building cities as if everyone was 30 years old and athletic and create great cities for all. Any city, of any size, should pay attention to how well they treat its most vulnerable citizens, including children, older adults, disabled and poorer residents.

How is your city doing? You don’t have to be an expert to assess whether a park, street, sidewalk, school, library, actually any public space invites people to walk or ride. Simply use 8 80 Cities’ practice. If evaluating an intersection, think of a child you love, someone around 8 years old. Now think of an 80-year-old that you love. Would you send them across that intersection? Would they feel safe? Can they walk to school or to a park? If your answer is yes, it is good enough. But if it is no, it must be changed. The 8 and the 80 year olds are indicators. If a city promotes a culture of health for them, it will promote a culture of health for everyone, a built environment where everyone can live the healthiest lives possible.

Design can transform healthcare services and spaces

By Stacey Chang, Executive Director of the Design Institute for Health, a collaboration between the Dell Medical School and the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin dedicated to applying design approaches to solving systemic health care challenges as an integrated part of medical education and training. Stacey is also a member of the TEDMED 2016 Editorial Advisory Board.

Stacey ChangRecent developments in medical research have focused significantly on individual health. From personal genome sequencing and microbiome analysis to the influence of a person’s specific environment and behaviors, it’s clear that – as we develop new therapies – there’s tremendous value to be derived from considering what makes each of us biologically unique. Yet, our collective health outcomes as a society inexorably worsen. Although our technological virtuosity shines, we still seem unable to address aspects of health that are broadly universal and shared across the collective of human society.

As we seek new approaches and creative problem solving, “design thinking” should continue to become an increasingly powerful tool for identifying and solving these complex health challenges. Most casual observers view “design” as an aesthetic discipline that gives rise to beautiful things – for instance, we are all familiar with the output of interior designers and graphic designers. Design thinking, however, is not about the output, but rather the perceptive, inspired methodology that leads to that output.

Specifically, design thinking begins with research that reveals the deeper needs of the humans in the system, needs that they are either unaware of or unable to describe. The research, qualitative in nature, is a savvy combination of psychology, sociology, and anthropology. It leads to insights that are the inspirational spark necessary to develop completely new solutions (not just incremental revisions of existing tools or constructs, an unfortunately common response in healthcare). Those solutions are then built and tested, but in quick, low-resolution iterations. The resulting failures are of low consequence, but rich with learning, and the rapid-cycle revision leads to large-scale interventions that have already had the major risks resolved.

Design thinking is a fundamentally different approach to problem solving, and particularly unique in health. After more than a decade practicing design thinking at the design firm IDEO and leading the health side of the business, I founded the Design Institute for Health last year. As a collaboration with the new Dell Medical School and the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, we are positioned to apply design thinking in Central Texas with the goal of developing a model for what the health system of the future looks like.

We’ve already begun to remake services, environments, infrastructure and incentives. For example, through our design research, an underlying insight we identified was that the more you give a patient (a person, really) increased control and ownership over their experience, their anxiety will lower, they’ll be more engaged, and they’ll feel more empowered to develop self-efficacy. Though obvious in hindsight, it turns out that this is applicable across the entirety of people’s experiences in health, and is also consistent across every demographic divide.

The Children's Medical Services, at Broward General Medical Center, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Home Visits with Nurses and Social Workers, June 10, 2011. Inter Professional Nursing.
Home visits with nurses and social workers at the Broward General Medical Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Image courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

As a result of this insight, we’re designing outpatient clinics with no waiting rooms (because isn’t waiting just actually a process failure?) where patients and their families are granted their own private room for the duration of their stay. It becomes their personal space, where they can control everything from lighting, to entertainment, to the layout of the space. In this environment, we also ask them to take a more active role in their own care and make decisions, enabling them with information and perspective along the way.

We have also found that care providers (doctors, nurses, and staff) want to be recognized as humans, as well. They hate the system that has turned them into robotic executors of process, instead of providers of human care. In pursuit of efficiency, many nursing functions are parsed into smaller and narrower bundles of tasks. Pre-operative nurses onboard patients, but rarely spend more than ten minutes with a single patient before they’re handed off, and the bed is turned. This assembly line scenario is akin to the automotive assembly line worker who puts the same four screws into the same plastic part over and over again for an entire 8-hour shift. To upend the model, we’re redesigning the roles, so the nurses cover pre-op, intra-op, and post-op; in doing so,the nurses see fewer patients in a day, but develop a meaningful relationship with them throughout the entire stay. While this demands more of them in breadth of skill, it turns out that giving staff more control and ownership over their experience also makes them more engaged and empowered, and delivers a better outcome.

A deeper understanding of human motivation can lead to meaningful impact. In the end, scientific advances are an important and necessary component of the advancement of our society’s health, but it only represents one edge of innovation. To achieve our collective wellbeing, we must ultimately engage everyone in pursuit of better outcomes. We need to redefine health in terms that people can embrace and influence, giving them the agency to act on their own behalf. We might, perhaps, call this a culture of health.

Live online event: Reinventing the clinical visit

In roughly the time it takes you to read this blog piece and check out its links, you could have met with your doctor.

According to recent research, people spend a median of 15 minutes with their primary healthcare provider in a typical visit. That’s fine for reading a blog, but when it comes to clinician-patient interaction the math doesn’t add up, especially because much of the time may be spent reading charts or entering orders. The result is all too often a frustrated patient who leaves feeling less than attended to, and a burned-out doctor who wishes she or he could do more to guide patients towards health.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

What could we do to make these precious few minutes more meaningful?  To investigate, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the sponsor of TEDMED’s Great Challenges program, launched Flip the Clinic, an evidence-gathering, brainstorming project bringing a variety of interested parties to the table to help re-imagine the clinical visit. It’s based on the online course site Khan Academy idea of using technology for learning; many classrooms in the U.S. have also “flipped,” using web-based teaching for basics and face-to-face encounters to talk over questions and problems.

Leading the RWJF Flip effort is Thomas Goetz, TEDMED 2010 speaker and author of the book, “The Decision Tree.”  Goetz is “entrepreneur in residence” at RWJF, where he helps spot breakthrough ideas and nurture them to fruition.

“The doctor patient encounter is so important, and we basically have overstocked it with imperatives.  It’s a choke point in the healthcare system,” Goetz said to us about the initiative. “For most physicians, the ideal case load in terms of time spent would be about 1,300 patients annually.  In reality, on average it’s 2,100. How can we leverage this encounter to make it more valuable, and enrich it with information outside of the office environment?” he says.

Join Thomas Goetz and other special guests to discuss the topic for week’s Great Challenges Google+ online live event. Click here for more information and to register for Thursday’s event.  Share your comments and questions – we’ll answer as many as we can on air.

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TEDMED Partners Draw on Innovative Technologies and Innate Knowledge to Move Fields Forward

The Hive at TEDMED 2013 is designed to be a petri dish for innovation, both the kind that flows from new technologies — a Hubble telescope to examine your eyes, anyone? — and that which emerges from insight and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

“There’s nothing more complex than the brain,” said Husseini Manji, M.D., Global Head of Neuroscience for Johnson & Johnson (J&J), which created a Hive space dedicated to exploring diseases of the brain. Manji shared some of the challenges of treating brain diseases. Alzheimers, for example, is 100 percent incurable and 100 percent fatal. With a rapidly aging population, “this will be catastrophic, unless we can learn how to slow or prevent its progression,” Manji says. On the other end of the age spectrum, Manji calls mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and severe depression “a chronic disease of the young,” because they usually emerge in a person’s early 20’s and stay with them their entire life.

Part of the goal of the space is to raise awareness that mental illnesses are a result of neurochemistry. “Asking someone with severe depression to be more positive and exercise and just feel better is like asking someone with diabetes to make their pancreas work better,” Manji said.

Photo: Jerod Harris/TEDMED

The space showcases a 3D brain model that demonstrates brain activity in the form of electric signals in different parts of the brain, as affected by Alzheimer’s, mood disorders, schizophrenia, and chronic pain. Glove simulators, special glasses and a headset that makes it hard to hear help give participants a window into a patient’s experience of dementia.

J&J’s space also features early research on treating age-related macular degeneration, a disease that is currently incurable. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in adults age 50 and older in the developed world. New retinal imaging techniques draw on technology used in the Hubble Telescope, and could allow physicians to view the eye in such minute detail that they can see individual cells in the back of the eye. That technology, coupled with new non-invasive delivery techniques to deposit stem cells where they can replace previously damaged cells, have been tested on about 30 patients so far, and some 30 and 40 percent of these patients exhibited significant vision improvements that lasted for more than a year, in an early clinical trial.

Not that we can let our guards down. Chrispin Kambili, Global Medical Affairs Leader for Infectious Diseases at Janssen (a subsidiary of J&J), shared the history of tuberculosis (TB), which was nearly eradicated in the U.S. by the 1960’s. In the next decade, the United States was so optimistic about the decline in rates that it was decided to stop funding TB control programs. But then TB came back in a big way in the 1980s. “The AIDs epidemic, migration patterns, antibiotic resistance and the dismantling of the public health infrastructure” meant the country (and New York City in particular) was unable to deal with resurgence, which peaked in 1992, Kambili says. Since then, the rates in the United States have been reduced back down to levels where citizens will likely never know someone affected by TB again.

But the same cannot be said of developing countries. “Every 20 seconds someone dies of TB, though it’s a very treatable and in fact preventable disease,” said Kambili. “But what’s lacking is access to care, which has been difficult to implement on a global scale.” Another challenge is multi-drug resistance, which happens over time when patients aren’t treated in sufficient doses and bacteria evolves to resist common treatments. It’s a challenge, though, to get patients to get sufficient doses when they have to take medication for 18-24 months, and side effects include nausea, vomiting and even deafness. Janssen has developed a new drug, bedaquiline or SirturoTM, that studies show killed bacteria more quickly than a control group taking the standard regimen. FDA gave it accelerated approval in December.

Photo: Jerod Harris/TEDMED

Booz Allen Hamilton’s space leverages potential of a different kind — innate knowledge, insight and experience. That’s the motivation behind “design thinking,” an art and a process that attempts to gain deep insights into a person or a group’s unmet needs through an ethnographic approach to discovery. True design thinking involves having a user population keep journals, allowing researchers to observe and analyze everyday tasks and more. TEDMED Delegates will have the chance to be a part of a small-scale version of this process, as the “design thinkers” on site probe visitors with the question: “What does health mean to you?”

The key principals in the design thinking effort include: “Be empathetic. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes,” said Joe Garcia; and “Reframe the problem from a different lens,” said Patricia Kwong, both of Booz Allen. Kwong offers the example of the problem of MRI machines that were terrifying to pediatric patients. To help develop a solution, physicians put on a pair of knee pads, crouched down to kid-height, and looked at the machine from a child’s point of view. Only then did they come up with the idea to transform the hulk of the MRI machine into a significantly more inviting pirate ship.

Interestingly, the themes emerging from the design thinking discussions at TEDMED so far echo several of the 20 Great Challenges of health and medicine, including the role of the patient and managing chronic disease.

Progress achieved in the Great Challenges since last year’s conference catalyzed conversation in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) space. After eight months of Google Hangouts, a robust online discussion, and carefully curated Storify collations, the entire TEDMED community has the opportunity to weigh in on where we go from here to conquer the 20 Great Challenges.

At the Whole Patient Care station, Challenge team member Blaire Sadler, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, spoke with visitors about how the sub-specialization of medicine has led to each physician treating only an illness or body part, which results in a lack of care coordination and alienated patients. Sadler and his collaborators also wondered about the ideal environment in which a person can heal: “Why does a patient room have to be scary, austere and hospital-like? Why can’t it be home-like, peaceful and include art and music for positive distractions?”

Maybe one of the most interesting things about the RWJF space was the cross-sector dialogue it facilitated. For example, Suzanne Mintz, President/Co-founder at National Family Caregivers Association, stopped by the Causes of Sleep Deprivation station to share her take on why sleep is such a challenge for those who “can’t shut their heads off… when people are on high alert, it’s hard to come down,” noting that caregivers often are high on stress in addition to having additional responsibilities at night to care for a sick loved one.

Up to the Challenge?

Almost 600: Number of health goals set out by Healthy People 2020, a national health improvement agenda from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

More than 900: Number of diseases and conditions listed in the National Library of Medicine’s MedLinePlus database.

More than 12,000: Number of disease categories distinguished by the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases.

So… where do we start? It’s up to you.

At TEDMED 2012, we officially launch the Great Challenges Program, an effort to gather multi-disciplinary perspectives and ideas from health innovation leaders on 50 of the most persistent and complex issues facing health and medicine today.

Over the course of the conference, together we’ll narrow those 50 greatest challenges to 20 that are most critical to tackle in the coming year. All of the 1,200 TEDMED Delegates onsite at the Kennedy Center, along with as many as 50,000 offsite viewers participating via a remote simulcast called TEDMEDLive, will have the opportunity to cast their votes. We’ll announce the top 20 on Thursday evening from the Opera House stage.

Take the chance now to start reviewing the Great Challenges and make sure your voice is heard during the voting process next week.

Once we have our 20 great challenges, it’s time to give them a closer look. Throughout the year following TEDMED 2012, the Great Challenges Program will generate a lively national dialog on the 20 Challenges chosen by the TEDMED community. The program will include TV-style interviews with leaders from across fields, a series of webinars on each of the 20 Great Challenges, and the opportunity for TEDMED community members to add their voice.

Stay tuned for more here and at #TEDMEDChallenges on Twitter, as we highlight Great Challenges throughout the week.

What are the Great Challenges of health and medicine?

TEDMED will officially launch The Great Challenges Program during our April 10-13 gathering at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

The Great Challenges of health and medicine are complex, persistent problems that have medical and non-medical causes, impact millions of lives, and affect the well-being of all of America. In April, the TEDMED community will discuss 50 proposed Challenges and vote to determine which 20 Challenges will be TEDMED’s focus for the coming year.

We’ll then have a year-long series of interactive webinars with our Great Challenges team leaders, exerts and visionaries with varied viewpoints on the issues. Our community will then engage in a year-long series of lively national discussions designed to generate broad, multi-disciplinary understanding of each Challenge that can set the stage for truly effective action.

We hope your vote will be included in those cast by thousands of people around the country — at TEDMED 2012, TEDMEDLive locations, and online at www.TEDMED.com — to weigh in on the nation’s greatest challenges to health and medicine. Votes will be collected and counted during the conference dates, April 10-13, 2012. We’ll be in touch with details. In the meantime, click here to learn more about the Great Challenges Program and the proposed 50 Challenges.